School money and class sizes

All UK parties have been keen to get class sizes down in state schools. Yesterday Labour decided to make an issue of this, forgetting that class sizes have risen quite a lot in Wales where they are in government. I was interested to hear one of their spokesmen defend this by pointing out satisfaction with schools in Wales had gone up at the same time as class sizes. He was then at a loss to answer the obvious sequel – if parents and pupils think things are getting better, why did class size worry him?

I am all in favour of decent funding for schools, and have been asking for more money for Wokingham and West Berkshire schools where  budgets are tight. I have been asking b0th for more in total to schools, and more as a proportion of the budget to areas like Wokingham that have traditionally been given much less than the best funded. I would, however, be interested in your thoughts on class size.

It seems to me there are obvious occasions when individual pupils need individual help. That requires a good staffing ratio., There are also occasions when a good teacher or outside speaker or lecturer has something interesting and important to say when you can open the lesson or lecture up to many more pupils, as many more can benefit from it. Class size is an average figure which can conceal as well as reveal. Some star teachers and star lessons are so good that they are recorded and used in a wide range of ways by many students. On line learning is both one to one and one to many.

The  best judge of how many teachers a school needs should be the School Bo0ard and management team led by the Head. There need to be sufficient teachers for those things that need teaching in small groups or require individual attention. There can also be other times of day and topics that can be covered in larger groups. In practice schools experiment with smaller and larger groups depending on subject and age range of pupils, and often have more than one adult in the classroom so individual pupils can have individual attention as well as more general group or whole class work proceeding. The number of teachers in a secondary school is also affected by how many subject options the school  wishes to offer. The number of subjects varies considerably between schools.

Proposed closure of Marks and Spencer in Wokingham

I have been notified of a plan for the possible  closure the Wokingham store, following consultation with staff who will be offered jobs in  neighbouring stores.

I have written back to Marks and Spencer asking why they think they need to close the store, and why they are pessimistic about its future turnover and profitability. I asked if they have found the best mix between food, household and textile products. They need to examine their merchandising and marketing strategy for what should be a successful  and profitable store. They also need to take into account the growth of Wokingham and the surrounding area as new housing goes in.

I will let you know what response I receive.

Probate fees

I lobbied the government against the proposed increase in probate fees. I was pleased to learn yesterday that they are not proceeding with this increase in the present Parliament. I hope they do not reappear in the Manifesto.

Buying things from the EU

We are still waiting to learn if the rest of the EU wants to impose tariffs on all their many agricultural exports to us, and on the  cars they send us. Most of the things we export to them are tariff free under WTO rules or would be subject to very low tariffs. All services are tariff free, the things like aerospace parts and planes are tariff free.  The EU  sell us so much more of the limited number of items that do attract serious tariffs under WTO schedules.

I would like to reassure people who are worried about this. If by any chance the rest of the EU does turn down our offer of tariff free trade in an unlikely fit of self harm, we can find plenty of cheaper and better substitutes.

You do not have to buy German or French cars.   There is now a good choice of models, prices and specifications available from a range of UK car factories. If the EU wants tariffs on cars I would recommend the factory owners increase their UK capacity, as we will be wanting more home produced vehicles.

A visit to one of England’s vineyards  taught me that England makes some good white wines.  There are plenty of good  Australian and Californian reds as well as English.

There are many great English cheese, so you don’t need to buy French. There is such an abundance of choice.  Our diary industry was held back and made smaller by EU policy, with a long period of restrictive quotas. It needs more domestic demand for higher value added products.

Our supermarkets do rely on a lot of continental fresh produce, but there are other possible sources at home and abroad outside the EU which would be more attractive if they go for the EU tariff option. The UK could remove tariffs on rest of the world food where they produce things we cannot produce here which would  bring those prices down.

In a world of oversupply, with low rates of world inflation, being the customer has its advantages. All the time we remain in the EU we have to impose high tariff barriers on food from the rest of the world. Out of the EU we can cut or remove tariffs, and can bargain for a better deal for our exporters at the same time. The EU would be silly to make it dearer and more difficult for us to buy their products, when there is plenty of choice elsewhere.

Further exchange with Education Minister

Yesterday I lobbied an Education Minister again about the proposed fair funding of schools and Wokingham’s needs. I am also pressing for a suitable pledge in the Conservative Manifesto.